Your Miami Personal Injury Case: The Basics
Miami is a world unto its own with Cuban flare, pristine beaches, and infinite amounts of people watching. While living in Dade County can seem like a perpetual vacation, it's not all Gloria Estefan and endless nights of dancing in a conga line. What if you find yourself in Mercy Hospital because of someone else's negligence? There are many types of personal injury scenarios in that can happen in Miami -- work injuries, slip and fall accidents, medical malpractice, dog bites -- the list goes on and on.
Here's some general information to help guide you through the process of a Miami personal injury case.
What's the First Thing I Should Do If I'm Injured?
Do not ignore your injuries. Seek medical attention. Your health should always come first. Try not to minimize any pain or suffering you're feeling. Be completely honest with your doctor and explain how the injury happened. Begin to collect evidence to help your case. Speak to witnesses, keep a journal, and take photos. If you are injured on the job, contact the Florida Division of Workers' Compensation.
How do I Start Building My Case?
Begin to collect evidence to help your case. Speak to witnesses, keep a journal, and take photos. Here are some things to think about:
- Keep a journal and calendar: Write down every important detail you can. Continue to keep notes as your claim progresses and keep track of dates including medical appointments.
- Take Photos: Evidence is the strongest link to winning personal injury cases. Take photos or videos from all angles at the accident scene and of the damages suffered. If injured, consider taking photographs periodically of the injuries.
- Report the accident: Report the accident to the police, your insurance company or the group you believe is responsible. If you are contacted by the insurance company which represents the responsible person, remember that it is best not to give the company a statement without first contacting a lawyer.
- Gather information. Obtain police reports and the identity of any witnesses (name, address, phone number).
What are the Steps in A Miami Personal Injury Case?
Unless you have been part of a lawsuit before, it is difficult to know what to expect. Here's a general outline of what typically goes on in a case. Remember, every case is different depending on the facts and circumstances.
- Someone is injured due to someone else's carelessness or negligence;
- You may meet with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options;
- You or your lawyer files a complaint in court and has it served on the defendant(s);
- The defendant(s) may be required to file an answer;
- Both sides gather evidence and engage in discovery;
- Your case has one or more pre-trial conferences between judge and the attorneys to discuss a possible settlement. You may also be able to hire a mediator and settle out of court;
- If there isn't a settlement, trial takes place;
- Either party can appeal the decision to appellate courts.
Is There a Time Limit to File my Miami Personal Injury Case?
The standard time limit for most personal injury claims in Florida is four years from the date of the incident causing the harm. There are some exceptions for minors and mentally impaired persons. Remember, even if you have a legitimate claim you may be unable to ever receive compensation for an accident if you file too late.
What are Florida's Negligence Laws?
In order to win your case, you must prove the defendant was negligent or "at fault" for your injuries. There are a number of different ways to prove fault. It will depend on the particular circumstances.
Florida uses a pure comparative negligence rule. If you are partially responsible for the incident that caused your injuries, then your potential award at trial is reduced.
For example, if a jury finds that Abbot is 40% at fault, and Costello is 60% at fault, Abbot could still recover, but his $10,000 damage award will be reduced by 40%, for a net recovery of $6000.
What kind of damages can I claim in a lawsuit?
If you can prove another person was at fault for injuring you, you may be entitled to be compensated for your losses. Here are some examples:
- Past, current, and future estimated medical expenses
- Any permanent disfigurement or disability
- Mental distress, including any anxiety and/or depression
- Interference with your family relationships, called loss of consortium
- Lost wages from work, including time spent going to and from medical appointments and therapy
- Any property damaged because of the incident
- Any other costs that were a direct result of your injury
Do I Need A Lawyer?
If you aren't sure what to do, a lawyer may be able to help. Lawyers take personal injury cases on a contingency fee basis. Basically, you don't pay anything upfront. The lawyer only gets paid if you win your case. A settlement is considered a "win" and your attorney will most likely be entitled to collect their fees.
If you do decide to sue, your lawyer will provide details about where and when to appear in court. Here's a list of Miami courthouses.
Keep in mind, what happens in court is nothing like what you see in Hollywood. Personal injury cases are often times difficult and lengthy processes and there's no guarantee of a successful outcome. For more information, you may wish to contact a Miami personal injury lawyer.
Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney
Contact a qualified attorney.